Flat White vs Cappuccino: What is really the difference?

Halime Yılmaz

7/28/2023

Surely one of these coffees is unique. Exactly how, though?! How can you figure out which coffee kind will be your favorite?

And, what is the difference between flat white and cappuccino?

Read on this blog to understand the main differences and similarities between flat white and cappuccino. So, you can order your favorite coffee in a coffee shop with confidence.

Key Highlights

Cappuccino

Ratio: Made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk or micro foam, each accounting for 1/3 of the drink. Serving: Typically served in a cup with a capacity of 150 - 180 ml. Origin: Originated in Italy.

Flat White

Ratio: Comprises 2 shots of espresso combined with 2/3 steamed milk, ideally with micro foam. Serving: Served in a cup similar to that used for cappuccinos. Origin: Believed to have originated in either New Zealand or Australia.

flat-white-vs-cappuccino

What is Flat White?

Flat white is a modern classic in the coffee world, appreciated for its smooth espresso-to-milk ratio and its unique, less foamy and creamy texture.

Although various flat white recipes exist, they typically follow a similar pattern: Start with 60ml of espresso coffee. Next, add 120ml of foamed milk.

To achieve the perfect flat white ratio, you pour the steamed milk over the espresso, resulting in a coffee-to-milk ratio of 1:3.

Unlike cappuccinos, the flat white has significantly less foam.

Instead, it has a delicate microfoam that contains smaller, tighter air bubbles and has a smoother texture. When you take a sip, you'll notice the microfoam feels silkier in your mouth.

The ideal microfoam height on a flat white is around 0.5cm, distinguishing it from the frothy crowns often seen on cappuccinos.

See Also: 10 Key Differences of Filter Coffee vs. Espresso

What is Cappuccino?

A cappuccino, a traditional Italian coffee, is prepared by combining espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Served in a porcelain cup, it is characterized by its prominent layer of thick foam on the surface.

To maintain the ideal flavor balance between the espresso and milk, the cup size for a cappuccino is smaller than that of a latte, typically ranging from 150 to 180 ml.

The foam in a cappuccino can be of two varieties: dry or velvety. Dry foam exhibits large, airy bubbles, creating a thick volume texture.

On the other hand, velvety foam, also known as microfoam, boasts barely visible bubbles, giving it a smoother and silkier consistency.

If you want to learn more about the origin of the cappuccino, some of its variations, and more, you can read this in-depth article!

Flat White vs Cappuccino: Differences

The flat white and cappuccino are two popular coffee beverages, each with its unique characteristics and differences. Here are the key distinctions between the two:

1- Ratio of Milk to Espresso

A cappuccino consists of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk, resulting in a balanced combination of flavors.

On the other hand, a flat white has a higher proportion of milk to espresso, typically around 2/3 milk and 1/3 espresso.

This makes the flat white taste lighter and less concentrated in terms of coffee flavor.

2- Coffee-to-Milk Integration

In a cappuccino, the three components (espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk) are usually more distinct, with visible layers. Baristas often take care to create a clear distinction between espresso, milk, and foam.

In contrast, a flat white aims for a seamless integration of coffee and milk, with a smooth and consistent texture throughout the drink.

3- Taste

The flat white offers a milder and smoother taste profile. It combines the richness of espresso with the velvety texture of steamed milk, resulting in a coffee that is creamy, delicate, and subtly flavored.

But the cappuccino has a stronger coffee taste due to the equal ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. It offers a more pronounced and balanced flavor profile.

4- Foam

The foam in these two drinks also differs. A cappuccino is known for its thick layer of frothed milk on top, which adds a creamy and airy texture to the beverage.

In comparison, a flat white has a thin layer of microfoam, giving it a smoother and silkier mouthfeel. The foam in a flat white is less prominent than that in a cappuccino.

5- Size

While the exact sizes can vary, as a general guideline, a flat white is typically served in a smaller cup and has a volume of around 160ml.

On the other hand, a cappuccino is usually served in a larger cup, ranging from approximately 150ml to 180ml.

6- Origin and Popularity

The flat white originated in Australia or New Zealand (there is some debate over its exact origin), while the cappuccino has its roots in Italy.

While both coffee types are now popular worldwide, the flat white gained popularity in the specialty coffee culture during the 1980s, whereas the cappuccino has been a staple in traditional Italian coffee houses for centuries.

7- Serving Temperature

Traditionally, cappuccinos are served at a higher temperature than flat whites. The extra frothed milk on top of the cappuccino helps retain heat, resulting in a warmer overall beverage.

8- Texture

Due to the frothed milk's prominent presence, cappuccinos tend to have a more robust and airy texture, especially in the upper foam layer. This gives the drink a light and fluffy feel.

On the other hand, the microfoam in a flat white is finer and silkier, resulting in a creamier and velvety texture.

Difference-Between-Flat-White-and-Cappuccino

Flat White vs Cappuccino: Similarities

Flat White and Cappuccino are two popular coffees that share some similarities.

Here are the similarities between the two coffees:

  • Espresso-Base Both Flat White and Cappuccino are made using a shot (or double shot) of espresso as their foundation.

  • Espresso Strength As both beverages are based on espresso, they share a similar level of coffee strength. The espresso in both Flat White and Cappuccino provides a robust coffee flavor.

  • Milk Texture In both beverages, milk is used to create a creamy and velvety texture. The milk is steamed to create microfoam, which is crucial for achieving the smooth and frothy consistency in both drinks.

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FAQs

  • Which is better, a flat white or cappuccino?

The creamier texture and higher caffeine content make the Flat White a great choice for those who enjoy rich coffee, while the cappuccino's distinct flavor and smoother mouthfeel with a stronger coffee taste make it a perfect match for those seeking a different coffee.

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